Senate GOP Opposition to AG Builds
In late April, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) told reporters Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had a "huge credibility issue" regarding the mass firings of U.S. attorneys last year.
But, telegraphing his own spin, Coleman then said he was "walking up to the line" without actually crossing it and calling for Gonzales to resign, something that only President Bush should do.
Well, no more.
Yesterday, Coleman said that the news broken by The Post's Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein that the Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials had previously acknowledged -- between 25 to 30 prosecutors -- was a bridge too far. "Attorney General Gonzales is unable to provide the type of leadership needed to effectively run the department," Coleman said.
Coleman became the sixth Senate Republican to call for Gonzales's resignation. Unlike House Republicans, who spent last week defending Gonzales, Senate Republicans piled on the attorney general this week, creating fresh doubts about his long-term hold on the job.
Here's a Capitol Briefing breakdown of Senate Republicans who have been most outspoken on Gonzales. Special thanks to the guys at Talking Points Memo for maintaining a similar whip count on Republican opposition to Gonzales.
THE RESIGN NOW CROWD
John Sununu (R-N.H.): First GOP senator to call for resignation, on March 14. While Sununu is up for re-election in 2008, his call for Gonzales's departure isn't just a political move as he's long been a critic of the attorney general's, particularly on issues related to torture and domestic spying.
Gordon Smith (R-Ore.): Followed Sununu by one day, making his resignation call on March 15. "The senator believes, as a matter of credibility, it would be most helpful to have an attorney general we can have full confidence in," Smith's spokeswoman told Capitol Briefing then.
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.): Most dramatic resignation call to date, the only lawmaker to say Gonzales should be fired to his face: Here's how Coburn concluded his five-minute questioning of Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee's April 19 hearing: "I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others [the fired prosecutors] have suffered. I believe the best way for us to put this behind us is your resignation."
John McCain (R-Ariz.): Made resignation call on the day he officially announced his bid for the GOP nomination for president, April 25. As he told CNN's Larry King, "I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do."
Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska): Reacted after the dramatic testimony Tuesday by former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. In a statement issued Wednesday, Hagel said: "The American people deserve an Attorney General ... whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead."
Coleman (Minn.): From yesterday's statement: "The cloud of suspicion continues to hover over the Attorney General's office surrounding the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys. This political debate distracts from the important work that must be done at the Justice Department."
THE 'WALKING UP TO THE LINE' CROWD:
Arlen Specter (Pa.): The top Republican on Judiciary refuses to ask for Gonzales to resign, but has made his private intentions very clear. Just this week Specter has said it's "embarrassing" for "professionals" to work for Gonzales and called the Justice Department "dysfunctional" under Gonzales.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): A U.S. attorney for Alabama for almost a dozen years, Sessions has been outraged at what he considers a lack of experienced prosecutors around Gonzales, who lacks his own prosecutorial background. Yesterday, he told Capitol Briefing he doesn't think Gonzales can "re-energize" the department: "I saw real difficulties there, and I still do."
Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): Most concerned about the Comey testimony, as she told Capitol Briefing yesterday: "It's deeply troubling, it undermines his position as attorney general ... The president should obviously seriously consider whether or not he should continue."
Susan Collins (R-Maine): Reacting to news that the U.S. attorney from Maine was on several of the firing lists, Collins told local media: "I think the attorney general's credibility has been incredibly damaged."
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe caught up with Graham the GOP presidential debate in South Carolina this week, where the senator said Gonzales - four months after the controversy broke - still has "credibility problems."
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.): The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee is now in the mix of the U.S. attorney scandal because of Comey's testimony about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program: "When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it [resigning]."
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